Undiscovered Power Gestures

A few weeks ago, Twitter blew up about an interaction on iOS that people discovered. This behavior allows users to navigate through a text field by pressing down on the device.

This feature has been available for 3D Touch-enabled devices since the iPhone 6. However, the release of the iPhone XR probably re-surfaced this discovery.

This sparked a lot of criticism by people on social media. Some were upset that Apple was not explicit about this to users and just rolled it out as a feature. I’m writing to challenge the criticism and say that it is not bad UX for Apple to roll out a feature like this without clear instructions. No, it’s not because of company allegiance or fanaticism, but on principle.

Let’s start by being clear that I’m not in the business of blaming the user. Is it wrong that users don’t know this? No. Should users have to watch an Apple Keynote to know how interactions work? No.

This interaction is an accelerator gesture, which is a supplementary way to achieve something. The beauty of multitouch interactions is that there are multiple pathways to achieve something. I believe the primary interaction has to be intuitive and clear. However, for secondary interactions, it does not have to stand out like the primary one. In this case, the primary interaction is tapping on the area you want to edit.

When Android rolled out this feature (prior to Apple) there was a similar sense of discovery with about the same level of onboarding and education.

Primary interactions need to be clear and obvious. However, secondary interactions and accelerators can often be something more broadly accessible, and can be a moment of delightful discovery.

The “No NUX” (New User Experience) rule does not seem to apply to Apple as much these days. There is a dedicated app for Tips and now onboarding has been introduced to iOS devices. That being said, here are a few reasons in defense that this design decision is not bad UX.

Interaction Accelerator

Multi-touch often also means multiple ways to use it. A few more examples of interactions like this on iOS:

  • Tab and hold to bring tabs you recently closed in Safari
  • Tap and drag to select photos
  • Tap and hold to archive emails instead of deleting
  • Swipe to delete digits in Calculator
  • Hold the compose button in Mail to see drafts
  • Interaction accelerators do not necessarily need to be discoverable as long as the primary interaction is clear.

Shortcuts that can be discovered and mastered

A mentor of mine once taught me the idea of interactions that can be mastered. He used the example of a light switch. It’s so simple that after interacting with it, it can be mastered. His point was that if you installed a light switch backwards, it’d be moments for someone to learn how it works. Multitouch gestures behave in a similar way. The more you use it, the more one understands how the ecosystem works.

The user should always feel empowered, and Apple has an opportunity to raise awareness of features without expecting people to sit through a Keynote event.

However, to call this “Bad UX” is a bit of a stretch.

P.S. Thank you Rosa McGeefor edits and feedback.

UX Cambridge - Human-Centered Design Leadership

Thank you for coming to my workshop on Human-Centered Design Leadership! I've included slides to the talk for those who asked and appreciate any feedback you may have on it!


Going across the pond twice for conferences

I'm going to be heading across the pond twice in the next few weeks for two conferences I'm really excited about. Next week, I'm thrilled to be back at UX Cambridge for the third year and will be doing a workshop on an introduction to design leadership. This is similar to the one I did in UX Scotland and targeting towards new managers or people considering design leadership.

In October I'll be at UXDX in Dublin and speaking on prototyping towards the product vision and how Integrated UX can help you get there.

Hope to see some of you there!

The Twitter Solution

It's been about four months since I deleted my Facebook account. The driving-force was really my desire to spend more time creating content vs. consuming it, and so far it's helped tremendously.

As I seek other places where I can optimize, Twitter is the next one I am considering. This one is a bit harder for me than Facebook, which is a platform I'm not too keen about. Twitter in a lot of ways changed my life. I've been on it for ten years and made so many great friends, professional connections, and yes, even met significant others from it. In fact, all of my best friends in Lower Pacific Heights in San Francisco are friends I met on Twitter. I owe the platform a lot for that.

However, times have changed. Twitter is no longer the spinoff of a side project at Odeo that had heaps of third party apps. It's a publicly traded company that is continuing to push generating revenue. Most importantly, there are a lot of issues with online harassment. I know that there are a lot of smart people working really hard to make Twitter better every day, and I love them for that. However, I've come to this conclusion.

I need a break from Twitter.

I'm not ready to completely delete it as I need more time to reflect, but have logged out of all accounts. For now, I'm going to focus more on indie blogging. For the service I'm using micro.blog to aggregate content from my WordPress blog. If you haven't used it, give it a try. Manton Reece is a wonderful human being and taking on an ambitious initiative.

I use my micro blog similar to how I used to use Tumblr (which I've now deleted since the Oath acquisition); publishing raw thoughts, photos, and other randomness.

Please join me on my indie blog as I'd love to continue the conversation over there for now.


I am really loving the new version of Sunlit. As I have contemplated deleting Instagram as well, this might push me in doing so.

Aes Dana - Memory Shell

When it comes to music that helps me work, I really like any electronic with limited (or no) lyrics to focus and have a high-tempo rhythm. I really recommend Aes Dana's album "Memory Shell". I think "Opalin" is my favorite track on it.

An Introduction to Technology Experience Prototyping - UX Scotland

Thank you to those who attended our workshop at UX Scotland! Slides are available here on my GitHub.

If you have any questions or simply want to stay in touch, you can reach us at: